Insulin Coma Therapy

where’In a recent Psychiatric Bulletin, there was a fascinating Editorial about 90 year old Dr Harold Bourne and his “fight for justice with no fear of the consequences: one man taking on the mainstream medical profession in order to stop use of a treatment that had been harming and killing people across the world for more than a quarter of a century.”

Insulin Coma Therapy was once a treatment used for severe mental conditions. It was widely used.

Dr Bourne 1

After I read this Editorial, entitled “” I made a short film about this extraordinary story. I called my film Furor Therapeutica:

mutability of the past the mut

To play this short film please click here or on the image above.

Here is Dr Harold Bourne:


And here is the start of his Lancet Editorial “The Insulin Myth” written when he was a junior doctor:

The-Insulin-MythIn my opinion, as a practicing NHS doctor, one of the most important slides in my film Furor Therapeutica, is this:


In the latest British Journal of Psychiatry (December 2014), 60 years on from his “Insulin Myth” Editorial, Dr Harold Bourne is again in print:


It was this current letter by Dr Harold Bourne that inspired me to write this blog-post today. I have come to question the “due deference” that has been part of the medical training. The risk here is that medical colleagues (and professional reputations) are put ahead of patient safety. Dr Bourne we need more “identities” like you in the medical profession!

The content of this post is based on the Editorial “Dr Bourne’s identity – credit where credit’s due” which was written by Dr Jonathan Pimm

In this clip, Professor Sir Simon Wessely ‘spins’ the institutional history of Insulin Coma Therapy and omits to mention Dr Harold Bourne. It would be worrying if evidence based medicine relied on the past being so mutable.1984

Professor Sir Simon Wessely on Insulin Coma Therapy:

To play this short clip please click here or on the image above

2 Replies to “Insulin Coma Therapy”

  1. It’s 70 years ago and my Insulin Myth publications, far from promoting my career, evoked sarcastic qiuestions about them from senior psychiatrists at job interviews. Eventually.I had to retreat from proper psychiatry into mental deficiency. Providentially, as it turned out, because it led me to identify what I called protophrenia , simultaneously labelled infantile autism in the USA and recognised there to be the same Autism was a more acceptable designation than protophrenia in the world of child psychiatry and parents.,and the alternative term, protophrenia has long been forgotten. Anyway,it’s pleasing to be remembered about insulin coma therapy now without the disdainful negatives on offer originally, so long back, when it was heresy on my part to call insulin coma therapy a myth. Greetings, Harold Bourne FRCPsych.Emeritus.

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